Apple’s Tim Cook on watches, taxes and how he’s like Steve Jobs
FORTUNE — Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook was the headliner at the Wall Street Journal‘s AllThingsD conference Tuesday night. A few topics he declined to discuss: His personality, former executives who weren’t in the room, and — of course — Apple’s future plans.
Otherwise, he fielded every question put to him in his 1:21 minutes on the stage.
Selected quotes (taken from the live blogs):
- On Apple’s rivals: We’ve always had competent rivals. We fought against Microsoft, still fight against Microsoft in the PC space. We fought against hardware companies that were viewed to be incredible hardware companies, like Dell. But we’ve always suited up and fought. I don’t see that different today.
- On Apple’s product philosophy: Our north star is always on making the best products. The best phone, the best tablet, the best PC, the best MP3 player.
- On Apple’s share price: If you look at the stock, it’s been frustrating. Frustrating for investors and all of us. This is not unprecedented. The beauty of being around for a while is you see many cycles.
- On future products: We have some incredible plans that we have been working on for a while. The same culture and largely the same people that brought you the iPhone, the iPad mini, the iPod and some who brought you the Mac, the same culture is there. I think we have several more game changers in us.
- On Google Glass: There are some positives in the product. It’s probably likely to appeal to certain vertical markets. The likelihood that it has broad appeals is hard to see. I wear glasses because I have to. I can’t see without them. I don’t know a lot of people that wear them that don’t have to.
- On wearable computers: The wrist is interesting. It’s more natural. But to convince people they have to wear something, it has to be incredible… I think there are other things in the space that could be interesting. Sensors are exploding. With the arc of time, it’ll become clearer.
- On Android: Do I look at it? Of course. I don’t have my head stuck in the sand… Globally I think there are a lot of phones that are called smartphones that if we got together, we’d call it a feature phone, and the user uses it like a feature phone.
- On winning: For us, winning has never been about making the most. Arguably we make the best PC, we don’t make the most. We make the best music player, we wound up making the most. We make the best tablet, we make the most. We make the best phone, we don’t make the most phones.
- On iOS’s new look: We recognized that Jony [Ive] had contributed significantly to the look and feel of Apple over many many years, and he could do that for our software as well. What we did last fall was change things up — to really ramp up our innovation. The key in the post-PC era for having a great product is incredible hardware, incredible software, and incredible services, and to combine them so you can’t tell what’s what. The magic is at the intersection.
- On why Apple’s doesn’t make a range of iPhones: We haven’t so far. That doesn’t shut out the future. It takes a lot of really hard work to do a phone when you manage the hardware and software and services in it. We’ve put our focus on doing that right. We haven’t been focused on working multiple lines. Think about the evolution of the iPod over time. The shuffle didn’t have the same functionality as other products. It was a really good product, but it played a different role — it was strikingly different. The mini played a different role than the classic did. If you remember when we brought out the mini people said we’d never sell any. The mini proved that people want something lighter, thinner, smaller. My only point is that these products all served a different person, a different type, a different need. For the phone that is the question. Are we now at a point that we need to do that?
- On a large-screen iPhone: At a macro level, a large screen today comes with a lot of tradeoffs. When you look at the size, but they also look at things like do the photos show the proper color? The white balance, the reflectivity, battery life. The longevity of the display. There are a bunch of things that are very important. What our customers want is for us to weigh those and come out with a decision. At this point we think the Retina display is the best. In a hypothetical world where those tradeoffs didn’t exist, you could see a bigger screen as a differentiator.
- On testifying before Congress: Here’s how I felt on this. The subcommittee was coming to certain conclusions and we felt strongly that we looked at those very differently. I thought it was very important to go tell our story and to view that as an opportunity instead of a pain in the ass.
- On Apple’s taxes: We don’t use tax gimmicks. We have no special deal with the Irish government. We pay $6 billion [in Federal taxes], and that is the highest in the U.S. We pay more taxes than anybody. We’re not saying we should pay less. We may wind up paying more [if loopholes are closed]. But we’d have unlimited ability to pull our capital back from offshore. Some people think that companies that develop products in the U.S. and sell them around the world should pay taxes in the US. If everything developed in the U.S. will be taxed here on worldwide profits, I worry about where development will be.
- On government scrutiny: When you get a little larger, you get more attention. It comes with the territory. We all hold Apple to a higher standard. I love that.
- On the environment: Former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is joining Apple. She’s going to be coordinating a lot of this activity across the company.
- On next week’s e-book trial: The e-book case is bizarre. We’re not going to sign a settlement that says we did something we didn’t do. So we’re going to fight.
- On Apple’s cash: In the previous year we were on a pace of acquiring a company every 70 days or so, so we’d acquire 6 or 7 companies in a year. This year we’ve already acquired 9 companies.
- On buying a social network: I’ve never felt we had to own a social network. We have looked at large acquisitions. It’s not something we are afraid of.
On Apple’s closed architecture: On the general topic of opening up APIs, I think you’ll see us open up more in the future, but not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience. So there’s always a fine line to walk there, or maybe not so fine. We think the customer pays us to make choices on their behalf. I’ve see some of these settings screens, and I don’t think that’s what customers want.
- How he’s different from Steve Jobs: In a ton of different ways. But in the most important ways, we’re the same. Keeping the culture of Apple. That’s the most important.